Flights of Fancy
“We believe in the possibility of an incalculable number of human transformations, and we say without smiling that wings sleep in the flesh of man”Â — Multiplied Man and the Reign of the Machine (1911), Marinetti
This years Lab Research Theme is ‘Flights of Fancy’. Below is the brief handed out to students at the beginning of the year to stimulate responses. If you’re interested in studying with the Interactive Architecture Lab, you can find out more about us here.
From the birdlike automaton of 4th Century BC Greek Philosopher Archytas and 3rd Century BC Chinese Inventor Lu Ban, to the daring manned flights of the Wright Brothers, and heroic Apollo Missions, flight, for millennia, has inspired great leaps of imagination in design and engineering. Its story is rich in extraordinary personalities such as the 13th Century Eilmer of Malmesbury (the flying monk) and the Renaissance’s Leonardo Da Vinci.Â Then came the pioneering Balloonists of the Montgolfier Brothers, the groundbreaking Aeronautics Physicist Sir George Cayley, and the fearless glider enthusiast Otto Lilienthal.
Whether they were hard scientists & engineers who worked from sound scientific principles, pursuing their dreams with clever innovation, or passionate tinkerers, dreamers, and idealistic eccentrics – the evolution of flying machines, is as much a tale of single minded determination as it is of ingenuity. These great inventors were viewed as charlatans, at times mystics and to many as madmen but they overcame gravity, the force that had held man beneath the sky. As Aviator and Poet John Gillespie Magee put it, the invention of flight allowed man to “reach out his hand and touch the face of God”.
Flight gave man a great new confidence, that the heavens could be conquered, that no challenge was beyond human ingenuity. And with our new found confidence we reached for the stars, and split the atom. And with these god like powers we held within our hands the ability to destroy ourselves. As the Father of the Atom Bomb J. Robert Oppenheimer remarked, borrowing words from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Today, in an age of super computing and synthetic biology, we’ve decoded the human genome, cloned and engineered our very own body tissues. Unlocking great cures and at the same moment terrifying weapons. Biology is the new disruptive technology, no longer only in the hands of scientists, but tinkerers, dreamers, and idealistic eccentrics. It all begs the question – What new god like powers are we playing with? What new wings might we find in the flesh of man?